2 Areas of current research
2.1 Negative feedback mechanisms
Despite agreement on the positive feedback mechanism that initiates El Niño events,scientists have yet to reach strong agreement with respect to the termination of El Niñoevents and the transition into negative phases (Wang and Fiedler, 2006). As of writing, four theories are dominant in attempting to explain how ENSO returns to a negative phase; thedelayed oscillator (Suarez and Schopf, 1988), recharge oscillator (Wyrtki, 1985; Jin, 1997a;1997b), western Pacific oscillator (Weisberg and Wang, 1997) and the advection reflectionoscillator (Picaut et al., 1997).The models each combine different aspects of the climatic system together intoconceptual ENSO models, which focus on the termination of the warm phase and transitioninto the cool, negative phase (Wang and Fiedler, 2006). Each model however focuses arounda different mechanism as being integral for the creation of the negative feedbacks required toenter a negative ENSO phase.Similarities exist between the models with respect to mechanisms, including the roleof upwelling Kelvin waves. These act to bring cooler water from the deep water to thesurface via Ekman pumping (Wang and Fiedler, 2006). The cooler waters mix with thesurface mixed layer and act to neutralise positive SST anomalies across the Pacific,dampening and ultimately reversing the El Niño. Critically however the mechanisms behindthe creation of Kelvin waves differ between the models.Although the models are scrutinised through calibration, validification andverification; no single model has emerged significantly as being more favourable inexplaining the negative feedbacks within the ENSO cycle (Wang and Fiedler, 2006; Wang etal., 2012). This is partially owed to the short climate record for ENSO, making calibrationand verification highly difficult; an obstacle for modelling ENSO feedback mechanismswhich cannot be easily managed. A unified oscillator theory was developed containingelements of the main four models to compensate but most of the problems associated with themodels were inherited and not tackled with (Wang, 2001).